Ten years ago, Dr. Arthur Agatston’s South Beach Diet became the latest craze. His diet regimen actually worked. People were losing weight and benefiting from his new “good carb vs. bad carb” guidelines, which aimed to educate people about the right foods to eat and clear up the carb confusion in the world of dieting.
Now, Agatston is back to educate people about the latest trend — gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other hidden sources such as soy sauce.
His new book, The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution, aims to help people understand what it means to be gluten-sensitive as opposed to gluten-intolerant.
“Gluten sensitivity is the real phenomenon even though there is no test for it,” Agatston said. “The only test is to eliminate gluten. And, that is really a challenge. That is what The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution is. The solution is that you eliminate gluten, and then you add back.”
Celiac disease — a digestive illness that damages the small intestine — is the worst form of gluten intolerance that exists. For celiac patients, a strict gluten-free diet is the only way to get rid of the problem. Currently, 1 percent of the population is said to suffer from celiac disease.
The book, written with Dr. Natalie Geary, offers a three-phase diet regimen that will allow people to figure out what their gluten limitations are while losing weight quickly. During the first phase, people will eliminate wheat and other gluten-containing foods from their diet. The foods are gradually reintroduced these foods in phase two and phase three — helping determine just how far one can go before hitting “gluten overload.”
The book offers 20 gluten-free recipes, meal plans, dining tips, travel tips and recommends foods. Agatston says giving up gluten completely is challenging, but for many, the benefits outweigh the temptations.
“Many are not aware of this gluten problem and nobody has explained this and given a program before like we are,” Agatston said. In the end, it is a much easier lifestyle. Being gluten-aware is not difficult. You could do it your whole life. Being gluten-free though, trying to avoid all the minor sources of gluten, is really difficult.”
The term gluten-aware vs. gluten-free was discovered in the first phase of Agatston’s three-phase plan in which he recommends a fairly strict gluten-free diet that means no grains, but doesn’t eliminate the hidden sources of gluten.
“As part of no grains it is no baked goods, no wheat-based cereal, no bread, no pasta, but we didn’t say no soy sauce,” he said. “We never said be absolutely strict. The idea is to be fairly strict, and for many things, you often see a response within days.”
Moises Velasquez-Manoff, a science writer and author, says celiac disease has almost quintupled over the past 50 years, but the milder version of celiac disease — gluten sensitivity — is about four times more common.
“There is some good reason for people to become so cautious about gluten, but that said, it has also become a fad,” Velasquez-Manoff said. “People should actually find out if they are sensitive to gluten before they give it up.”
Besides the dramatic increase in celiac disease, Velasquez-Manoff thinks that becoming gluten-free is trending because giving up wheat ultimately leads to losing weight.